Eclipse finally steps forward, standing next to Triad as the gravity of the situation out-weighs his own concerns. The armored Navi was not going to attempt to usurp Triad's choice, so a bit of pragmatism would have to come into play.
Eclipse: Psyche was the OEL's primary debugger, and eventually started experimenting using glitches on himself. Your best bet is probably to seek out somewhere with a large load of bugs. Maybe Kotobuki?
Triad raises a hand to interject, shaking his head at the same time.
Triad: Psyche was always a smart Navi. I really doubt that he'd go somewhere so blatantly obvious. Either way, you'd better get moving; the longer you're here, the longer Gate has to react to you.
Glitched data, again, was it? It seemed that he could never escape it. It was helpful, at least, that he was so familiar with it. He still had bits of crimson in his core, and if Kotobuki was anything like he remembered it, it would have pockets of bugged data dense enough to create Noise, at the very least.
Nodding, Joker closed his eyes, accessing the power of the generational. Having observed Aeon do this once, he ran through his memory bank and replicated the process, dialing forward the clock to return to his own realm.
With his analytical systems, even if he didn't understand the exact nature of the ability, the mechanics of it were easy enough to replicate. Opening his eyes, Joker looked around, seeing if Aeon was still waiting on him, his hand that he wasn't using to hide the Core already collecting the necessary power to create a Noise Wave.
And then, as Joker returns to the normal variant of the Galaxy Network, he'd realize that he wasn't alone. Aeon was gone, nowhere to be seen, but another figure now stands a few yards from him. Standing at less than half the height of the Crimson Titan, he doesn't appear as much. A nice looking Navi with purple armor and a helmet that appears slightly reminiscent of a turban with a blue gem in it, all draped in a white lab coat. Overall, he appears very average, but the knowing smile on his face speaks volumes at a glance.
He stands silently, looking on until Joker fully forms, at which time he speaks up, addressing Joker directly.
Gate: So I take it that you were successful in your quest, then?
Joker met eyes with the unassuming Navi, who stood at less than half of Joker's height, but possessed a knowing smile. The lab coat fit the style of an inquisitive individual, and the absence of Aeon also provided additional information to his unspoken query.
Joker's hand steadied itself; he knew that any attempt to hide the sphere further would only bring more attention to it at this point. His other hand, pulsing with red energy as he gathered that crimson power, stayed resting at his side. He was prepared to use it for other purposes, if necessary; even from here, the power radiating off of Joker was evident, and yet the power coming from this new comer felt quelled, impossible to truly ascertain.
He listened to his words, which confirmed that there was only one individual that this could be; the only other person who would know of his endeavors. "Gate, I presume.
"And what if I was?" The core of Eon was in his hand, closed within his fingers, and yet he could tell from Gate's look that he was already aware of this; there was no hiding this information. What came next, then, depended on what Gate would do with him. Opening a Noise Wave would just give him the data he needed to replicate those efforts, if Joker's theory was right about Gate's intelligence and capabilities, which would only serve to infuriate Joker's creator.
While not something Joker would be against doing, unnecessarily endangering his siblings was another matter entirely. Truly understanding a Noise Wave would be the first step to unravel how to traverse it properly. For as much as he wanted to, he could not use that method to escape.
It was in his best interests to entertain Gate, then, to see if he could be convinced to leave him be.
The scientist Navi was very unassuming, and looked rather bland; incredibly unimpressive, in fact. It was impossible to tell his true motives behind the charisma he seemed to wield, but Joker knew from his own father that such a thing was more dangerous than it was not.
The implications were made clear, however, and the invitation to chatter was cast at Joker's feet once again. His urge to turn violent was tested at every turn, it seemed, but he had already explained this story in detail three times, in the past hour. What, then, was the harm in one more? If Gate already knew that he had the core, then it would be in his hands to determine if he would leave here with it without a fight one way or another.
His scowl still omnipresent, Joker turned up his chin for a moment, but then knelt down to get closer to eye level with the scientist. ". . . If I were to have succeeded in collecting it, then I would be following the advice of those that wielded it before me. I would be in need of a researcher from the OEL, either you or a scientist named Psyche, to equip me with defensive measures appropriate to wield the power without being consumed by it.
"I am loath to believe that if the hypothetical did occur, I would be able to trust you, in truth. Beyond that, however, I would intend to use the power as I deem fit to forward my goals, and to protect that which has become dear to me."
Gate's eyebrows raise a bit as Joker kneels down, obviously bemused by the giant's motion; be it threat or an attempt to mentally level the playing field. Regardless, Gate holds his composure and shows no farther changes to his relaxed yet in-control stance.
Gate: I must say; I'm rather pleasantly surprised at your willingness to be so forthcoming with this information; thanks are in order for that. And since you've been honest with me, I'll be honest with you in turn;
I need that data that you're holding. For the sake of the future of the net itself, I cannot let this conversation end with you simply walking away with it.
Gate pauses for a moment and thinks.
Gate: Oh, and Psyche is in Kotobuki, should you still have need to locate him after our conversation.
Knowing that Joker would understand the implications of what he'd just said, Gate continues.
Gate: But let me set a little something straight before we continue; there's no need for us to come to blows here today, because I'm fairly sure that we're actually both on the same side here, Joker. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're here to amass power to help oppose our world's little... infestation... am I right?
The demeanor was all too similar, just as he was sure that it was. Gate was a manipulator as much as he was a tactician; a charismatic figurehead with the power to back his words should the honey not be enough. He was all too familiar with the type.
Joker's programming wouldn't enable him to be fooled by the wiles of such tactics, but he had to wonder in this case if such a thing would become his downfall. Gate was making it rather plain that he would not enable Joker to simply leave this place with what he was wielding; he even went so far as to tell Joker where Psyche was, with the evident truth still hanging in the air: Escaping was not his best course of action. Gate was trying to make that clear.
As for Gate's final words, his attempts to win Joker over, these words brought Joker back up to his full height, standing, resigned to what must inevitably come next. "That is correct, in a sense. There is much going on that I believe you are still missing out on if you are only to call them an infestation, however . . . while certainly not of our world, I am not certain that, despite their previous actions, their only goals are annihilation.
"Of that note, however, I pose a question to you: If we are on the same side, then, what does it matter who wields this data; who makes use of this power should be a moot point, if the end goal is all the same. No, say simply what you mean, Gate: You not only want the power to be used in the way you want it to be, you want to be the one in control of its use." Joker pauses, considering his next words carefully, as the Galaxy Network begins to crack and bend around him, his own power beginning to be unleashed as he decides to make his own point clear.
"And I am quite afraid that if your intentions are to prevent me from leaving here with the power that I sought after, then our confrontation is inevitable. I made a promise to one that I would not return empty handed, and a promise to another that I would not permit this power to fall into any other's hands. I've recently picked up the habit of keeping promises."
Joker's power was definitely note-worthy; a being with enough force to be worth taking on as an ally or even as a foe; but at the time being, such frivolities would have to wait. For now, Gate looks on with the exact same smile and raises a hand, gesturing to emphasize what he has to say.
Gate: I've already said exactly what I mean, Joker; "I cannot let this conversation end with you simply walking away with it". I've jumped to no conclusions about you and your goals, so I'd appreciate it if you'd offer me the same courtesy at this point and not make assumptions based on what others may have told you about me.
Gate pauses for a moment, now very sure about what Joker thinks of him at this point. With an arrogant smile he turns partly to the side and holds out his hands as if a flamboyant supervillain, speaking with a tone to match.
Gate: Ah, but since you're so sure of my plans, I need not hide them from you any longer, Joker. I do intend to take the core of Eon from you, and with it, I intend to....
Gate pauses for dramatic effect, his smile evolving into a smirk.
Gate: ....scan it!
Gate lets the grandiose bravado fall between the two of them before his arms fall at his side and his posture relaxes again.
Gate: That's right, Joker; contrary to what you're sure I'm planning, I have no need or desire to wield the core. I just need to scan it into my database so that we can destroy the blasted thing before it becomes an issue in the event of Eon coming back for a visit.
You've already revealed that you're aware of my previous position in the OEL, but what Triad and Eclipse probably didn't tell you is that the vast majority of the data on the Eon project was lost during the Nightmare incident. My database has re-compiled that research on all fronts save the core, which is also the most important aspect to be able to stop.
Gate pauses for a moment, then raises his hand towards Joker with a more relaxed smile than before.
Gate: And before you ask; no, I do not want to revive Eon. I was actually a part of the force that ended that beast, just as I've fought every threat that the net has faced in recent years; our current situation included. But back to the matter at hand;
I require the data for mere minutes, nothing more. It will never leave your sight, and it will be returned to you directly afterwards. And if you truly do believe that you can make a difference with it, then I will also provide the fortifications that you'll require to wield it.... and will also tell you how to cover a few blind spots that the twins probably didn't even bother to consider. Because I can tell you this;
Gate's smile darkens, his eyes sparking as he continues.
Gate: I honestly don't need to do anything to stop you. Within seconds of leaving this network with that program, I guarantee that you'll be dead. And that's not a threat, as it has literally nothing to do with me or anything that I can or would do.
Analyzing data and coming to conclusions based on the information provided was kind of the whole purpose of his programming. The more he came to those conclusions, though, the more it seemed to backfire on him. Binary processing, were the words that woman had to use towards him . . . 1s and 0s, yes and no, right and wrong, correct and incorrect query searches.
If his goal was to overcome his programming, was he feeling insofar that he still found himself making these conclusions, even now as Gate waved on his threat as candidly as if he were swatting away a fly?
The flamboyance and the ostentatious presentations were all too familiar, Joker's judgment far too easily clouded by the half-truths and double meanings hidden within the honeyed words. Talking with Mr. King was always difficult, his analytical mind taking the flamboyance into account far too much. He realized the very same applied to Gate.
He didn't like that.
Still, what he said didn't sound all that bad. Aside from the guarantee of his annihilation, likely at the hands of someone else seeking this power - he knew that risk all this time, of course - Gate did seem genuine.
The threat was all too clear in another sense, however. Allowing Gate to supply him with the necessary fortifications came with certain dangers. Those dangers existed no matter who he chose to visit, of course, as he would be giving them free reign to modify his systems to take on the mantle he needed. To hand over the core and allow Gate to analyze it before he could leave also meant that Joker would never be able to stand against Gate wielding that power; depending on just how much Joker allowed Gate to modify him, he also could not risk facing against him on the simple terms of what failsafes Gate would put into him.
These were risks he faced even with Psyche, and anyone else within the OEL, however. He knew his own code well enough to know when something would limit him or be of harm to him, however, so he at least had that much in his favor. If the dangers of this other threat became apparent the moment Joker left this network, then to leave without those augmentations and the power available to him was fatal in its own right . . .
. . . there was much to analyze and consider here, but not much time to do so. At the end of the day, Joker needed what Gate was offering. The ability to be allowed to leave here at all, the fortifications to wield the power, the power itself, and the information necessary to hopefully survive an otherwise impossible encounter to follow.
Joker held out his hand, unfurling his fingers, and held the power aloft. "Can you scan it from here?"
It was a simple response to the information he was just bombarded with, but an answer to the scenario all the same. He left many of his thoughts unspoken, knowing that they would be mostly counterpointed to his goals. "I see the value in accepting this aid, but offer another warning: I am intimately aware of my own structure. I will not permit any tampering that compromises my systems in such a way that it takes away my autonomy, awareness, privacy, control, or otherwise. If you are so certain of my eradication, then it should be of no concern to you to outfit me with the fortifications necessary without including additional failsafes.
"If what you say is true, also, then I have no need to believe that you nor I will ever come to need to trade blows. Fighting for the Net, for this world . . . it is a purpose I could adapt to follow behind. To install failsafes to control me or my capabilities alongside the fortifications will be making your own lie clear.
"As for your knowledge of many situations, could you inform me more of the inevitable demise you foresee? Is it from the new infestation, or perhaps the previously known Silver Tyrant, as they called Forte with the core? Why is this threat outside of the Galaxy Network, and not within it?
"And is there particular use in collecting all the pieces of Eon within myself, in search of that power, or is just the core sufficient for my needs?"
And now the first boards of this bridge between Gate's goals and Joker's goals were put into place. For the first time, Joker would see Gate's knowing expression begin to actually relax into something a bit more normal; he'd now have the chance to play the role of scientist rather than schemer.
Gate: In truth, I don't need to do anything to you myself. I can provide you with the protective program and the fail-safes that you'll need to be able to wield the core, and you'll be free to scan them at length at your own leisure. No trap doors or tricks; you'll be able to remove the program at will and use it for however long you need. Frankly; I despise those who would overtly attempt to take control of another's will. Despite my reputation, any who work with me do so of their own accord. Given the current situation and forecast, I can understand that you wouldn't want to offer yourself as my ally, but I also foresee no reason for the two of us to ever be at odds, just as you've said.
Gate nods, satisfied with his own exposition up to this point.
Gate: As for what awaits; yes, you're completely correct. Forte apparently took notice of a change in the net somewhere and has been near the Galaxy Network since you arrived. He once wielded that power, and he wishes to wield it again. My best guess is that he's amassing power for the same reason that you are, but his methods would be far less agreeable for us should they come to pass.
We're actually safe from him here, as we're on a network that he can't access. His data has some compatibility issues with the field in which we stand, so I assure that we're safe for the time being.
As for attempting to take all three pieces into yourself at once... that would be suicide, I'm afraid. If put together, with the core, the program could theoretically wipe your personality and mind from your body, then proceed to turn what remains into a "pseudo-Eon" of sorts. And in this you'd quite literally have no recourse; while the core can be used by basically anyone, it resonates perfectly with its remaining pieces, and would turn against you in an instant. However, I have the program quite thoroughly locked up, so you're at no risk of that currently. As for the last piece; the mind is actually harmless when not combined with the other two pieces. In fact, he's actually a rather polite Navi, if a bit out of touch. I'd recommend having a chat if you happen to encounter him in your travels.... and since you're already intimately familiar with his remaining pieces, I'd say that you'll probably cross paths eventually.
Gate actually smiles a bit at this, laughing under his breath with a jovial expression. He then coughs, restores his own demeanor, and continues.
Gate: And lastly; I'm afraid that I'll need to physically hold the program for a moment in order to run the scan. While I know that I'm drawing from unearned trust at the moment, I'm afraid that the other options available are rather grim at the time being.
Gate didn't seem the type to answer questions if he didn't know the full answer to questions that may follow; having the Program rather effectively locked up must mean that he knows the program's history, at least a little, and already knows that Joker has defeated the program and prevented its control, before.
With all three pieces, then, Joker was going to be at a loss. It did not answer his question if more power was possible by acquiring them, but, it did make it clear that the effort was not only pointless, it was suicidal.
Forte's appearance after he leaves the Galaxy Network will be a concern that he deals with when that time comes, but Joker was more and more concerned with the need to turn over the core to Gate. He doesn't know Gate at all, so what he says is true, but there were still some questions he had regarding just how well the program was locked up, all things considered. He strode towards Gate, potentially to allow him to hold the core, but kept it firmly within his own grasp for the time being, making it clear that he wasn't quite handing it over.
"Just how thoroughly do you have the program locked up, then, Gate? The program was able to manifest prescience within the Energy Stream and give me the necessary tools to travel to and from where the Core was kept, and made it abundantly clear that he eventually wanted it. Now I return, in need of all that you have offered, and you are poised to take the Core from me, and he is nowhere to be found.
"You must understand my hesitance. How can I be assured this isn't a trick? I hand over the core, and you leave as quickly as I do? Perhaps a trade of similar worth is in order, that I might be left with it should you decide to leave."
Gate folds his hands behind his back again, still smiling brightly. He hadn't had an opportunity to "spar" with another in this manner in quite some time, and Joker was showing himself to be extremely capable on that front. His every point had been valid, and his every concern reasonable. A small part of the scientist considers simply using force to push for his way at the mention of escape, but this thought is quickly discarded in favor of a continuation of the subject at hand.
Gate: I am aware. I actually left a back door in the program's containment that would allow it to still manipulate situations from afar, as I knew that finding this core was its all-consuming goal. You see; the program loves to espouse itself a master of "fourth-dimensional thinking", but it has a flaw of its own; it's a program, not a Navi. At its core, the premise of its goal can't be changed, so in using that knowledge, it's easy to use it. Yes, it probably has plans that can eventually circumnavigate this in the long-term, but for now I've actually gone so far as to shut the program down entirely in order to stop its interference. Not deleted, mind you, simply in stasis for the time being.
Gate looks up for a moment, his eyes drifting as he considers the situation. He then turns back to Joker and continues.
Gate: And if you're worried that I'm secretly the program in disguise; it's a valid concern, I'll give you that, but not something viable. Simply being on the same network as that core would be enough for the program to fully self-actualize, and the core would respond in kind. The program is not one to hold back, and at this point it would have been impossible to stop its integration and restoration. Oh, and one more bit of information that you may find interesting;
The three pieces of Eon are linked, as I've told you, but to a greater degree than anyone seems to realize. The core is the capability to perform a task, the program is the set of instructions that say how to perform it, and the mind is the moderating force to add intelligent design to the whole lot. The core is virtually indestructible, the program is very powerful and durable, and the mind is of kin to a common Navi. Should one piece of this puzzle be destroyed fully, then the others will cease to exist.
Gate nods towards the core, his hands still folded.
Gate: And that is why I won't use it. Having all three pieces together is far too dangerous, and having them separate vastly increases the odds that they'll eventually fail. It's fine for your task at hand, but far too chaotic for long-term goals.
And now we come to the matter of trust. I fully understand that you have no reason to trust me directly here, and while I've tried to not force any form of ultimatum, that ship has sailed under winds beyond my current control. So let me ask you; what do you require in transaction for enough trust that we can both get back to working towards the same goal?
He stood, towering over Gate, as Gate explained the reasons that his concerns were groundless.
The reasoning of the program to be just that, and thus be able to be manipulated, made sense to Joker; it was actually quite crafty. The program would follow through with its ultimate purpose, no matter what opportunities were put before it, and no matter what obstacles stood between them. By presenting it with a backdoor, it would be forced to use it to seek after its chances. It did seem, however, that the program was finally on lock and key.
The additional information provided on the connection between the three pieces of Eon was already something that he had been given insight into, from his conversations with Aeon, but Gate did at least put it forward in a different light. The program saw the mind is a flawed entity, attempting to prevent it from following through with its own grand design; the purpose of the program was to follow through its flawed plan, and it was furious with Joker for having the willpower to withstand those orders.
So, the very nature of the pieces is what necessitated keeping them apart, rather than destroying them. To threaten a single piece threatens the one piece that was actually a member of society, and to keep them separate ensured that they would never perform their ultimate goal.
His decision was made. Joker unfurled his fingers, the core floating from his grasp as he handed it over to Gate. "The information you provided is detailed enough to warrant trust. From one database to a scientist . . . I will offer you my trust.
"Do not misuse it." Behind his blue visor, his eyes flashed ominously at that statement. Joker knew that Gate was powerful, and that a confrontation with him would surely be difficult, but he was in no place to assume that it would be an impossible victory. He was willing to assert himself in that light, to make it clear to Gate that if nothing else, he had the confidence in himself to be willing to try if it was necessary.
"I request only that you follow through with your promise to outfit me with the necessary fortifications to wield it, any other loopholes that the twins did not consider, and perhaps an idea I could ponder on how to escape Forte's wrath."
Gate nods, his hands unfolding and laying at his sides in response to Joker's vote of confidence - shaky though it may be.
Gate: Then we have an accord. I'll need you to display a bit of your own data, in particular where in your systems you intend to store and access the program. This way we don't over-engineer the resulting program and limit your access to it. I won't need any other schematics or data, just the parts that will interact with it. Then, obviously, I'll need access to the program. It's a bit hard to ensure the function of the buffer unless I have full schematics of what I'm buffering against. In doing so, I should also be able to add a routine to the whole thing that will syphon the resulting power into your own systems safely. At that point you won't be "using" the core, but rather the core will be empowering you directly. This will make it far harder for beings such as Forte to track it, as they won't be able to pick up its unique signature. This will limit the output to a degree, but we'll also add the ability to break this limiter and access the program directly as a "last resort". Just keep in mind that this will track unwanted attention. Finally; at this point we can bypass Forte by just teleporting you anywhere that you want to go. I have connections across the globe and many ways to cloak movement, so you'll be able to go about your business with Forte being none the wiser.
And now Gate reaches out his hand, palm out as if offering to shake rather than palm-up to accept the core.
Gate: If these terms are all acceptable; do we have a deal?